Bodycam shows Salt Lake City police shooting 13-year-old boy with autism
(Screenshot via Salt Lake City Police Department/YouTube) A screengrab from body camera footage shows the interaction between police and Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old boy with autism, on Sept. 4, 2020. Cameron was shot multiple times as police were called near 500 South and Navajo Street to help with what officials have called a “violent psych issue.”
On a dark Salt Lake City street after a short chase, police officers approached 13-year-old Linden Cameron screaming orders.
“Get on the ground now!” one officer yelled, according to body camera footage released Monday.
Another yelled, “Pull your hands out!”
The first officer then fired nearly a dozen times at the boy, gravely injuring him.
“Show me your hands!” the officer continued to yell after Linden had fallen to the ground.
“I don’t feel good,” the boy said. “Tell my mom I love her.”
The body camera footage, released Monday by the police department, doesn’t illuminate why the officer felt he needed to fire at Linden, who is autistic and was having a mental health episode. And the police didn’t answer any questions during a five-minute news conference about the shooting, which has garnered national attention.
What the footage shows is a distraught mother, unsure of how to get her son to the medical facility that would be covered by their insurance and who didn’t believe her son had a weapon but wasn’t certain. It shows the perspective of the four officers who responded to the call — including a point where the officers grappled with how to deal with a mental health situation as their own policies were changing that required officers to try de-escalation first when responding to most cases.
One officer is heard on the footage asking why they should be doing an “approach” into Linden’s home for a “psych problem.”
“We could call sergeant,” she said, according to the body camera footage. “And tell him the situation. Because I’m not about to get in a shooting because he’s upset.”
“Yeah,” another officer, who later shot Linden, replied. “Especially when he hates cops, it’s going to end in a shooting.”
Linden’s mother, Golda Barton, called 911 on Sept. 4 and asked for a crisis intervention officer to come to her home near 500 South and Navajo Street. She told dispatchers that her son was “out of control” and needed to go to a hospital for mental health treatment.
Barton told the dispatcher that Linden has led police on a chase before and had been in “a shootout” with a police agency in Nevada. She said that her son had showed an employee of hers a fake gun the previous day, and told the officers who arrived that he might have that gun with him.
She warned the dispatcher, and later told responding officers, that Linden was scared of police and that a police badge was a “trigger.”
“We need him to go to the hospital,” the mother told an officer, according to bodycam video. “I need him to go to a hospital. I can’t get him to get there on my own. And I cannot do this every night.”
A team of officers went to the home to try to get Linden, the body camera footage shows, but he ran from the house into the backyard, and then ran into the neighborhood.
The officers went after him, with two of the officers breaking through a wooden fence to try to get to the running boy. The chase was short, and the body camera shows only one officer fired his weapon.
Police have said after the shooting that they found “no indication” the boy had a weapon on him.
“It’s horrible,” Wesley Barton, Linden’s 17-year-old brother, said of the video footage. “To see your little brother bleeding out, saying his last words. It plays in my head over and over.”
The brother said Linden ran from the police officers because he was scared. He said that after police yelled for Linden to show his hands, they didn’t give him time to respond before bullets started flying.
Barton said his brother is still hospitalized and will be for a while. He recently was able to transfer himself from a hospital bed to a wheelchair, Barton said, but still has trouble speaking because it’s painful. Linden has lost feeling in his arm, and Barton said it’s unlikely he’ll be able to walk normally again.
(Photo courtesy of GoFundMe) Pictured is Linden Cameron, who was shot by Salt Lake City police on Friday, September 4, 2020.
The brother said he hopes the officer who shot Linden is fired and that the police are more transparent with his family about what happened.
“I just hope that people know that my brother deserves justice,” he said. “He’s strong, and I just I think a big part of this is my brother was a person and didn’t deserve this. He deserves to get better and recover.”
Linden is described by his family as a boy who loves video games, four-wheeling and longboarding with his older brother.
In the 911 call, Linden’s mother told dispatchers that her son had been in a “shootout” with Lyon County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada, but did not give other details. She also said that officers in that same department had killed her father earlier this year. The Reno Gazette Journal reported that Owen Barton was killed by officers in January after someone called police to report that his neighbor had threatened him with a handgun.
Linden is the youngest person to be shot by Utah police, according to a Salt Lake Tribune database that has tracked more than 300 shootings since 2004. Eight others under age 18 have been shot in the past 16 years.
Chief Mike Brown said Monday that the shooting has impacted the department and said it will analyze what happened “through a lens of learning.”
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown listens as mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at a news conference on the release of video showing another police shooting in Salt Lake City, on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.
“We are facing a mental health crisis in this country,” he said. “We want to be partners with those who provide mental health services. As a community, we need to find a way forward. Too often, our officers are called to deal with these difficult problems, which frequently are not criminal in nature.”
The video of the shooting was released Monday as part of Salt Lake City’s policy that body camera video be released within 10 business days of a police shooting. Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Monday that, in the future, Salt Lake City police will upload shooting footage to its YouTube channel within 10 business days.
“As a member of this community and as the mother of a 14-year-old boy, I am profoundly heartbroken,” she said Monday. “I am frustrated. This shooting is another tragedy. It’s a tragedy for this young boy, for his mother and for families and individuals with acute mental health needs. I think that our community looks at this situation and see themselves or their loved ones reflected in it.”
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill will also review the case and make a determination if the officer was legally justified in firing a weapon. Utah law says officers can legally shoot at someone if they “reasonably believe” they must do so to prevent death or serious bodily injury to an officer or someone else.